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The First Catholic Cleric to Go Over to Saruman (and the Left Hemisphere)?

In the early nineteenth century, the “tormented, headstrong Breton priest”[1] Hugues-Félicité Robert de Lamennais changed fundamental Christian doctrines to justify socialism. His career illustrates the damage that can be done by presenting socialism as authentic religious doctrine, especially when an individual or group has established the illusion of orthodoxy in other areas.
De Lamennais transformed the originally orthodox “Neo-Catholic” movement into an explicitly socialist, modernist cult within the Catholic Church. Neo-Catholicism had the goal of conforming the teachings of the Church to the needs of the world, founding a truly universal religion, and establishing a terrestrial paradise. Some authorities consider de Lamennais the forerunner of liberal or social Catholicism. Charles Périn of the University of Louvain considered de Lamennais the first modernist.
Before the end of the nineteenth century, the spread of modernism amply demonstrated the attractiveness of the socialist concept of society. This is that all things — especially reason and the natural law discerned by reason — must be subordinated to human wants and needs. De Lamennais was not the first Catholic priest to conclude that the way to convince people to return to the Faith is to bring the Church up to date and conform to the modern age, nor would he be the last.
Described as “[a]n unhealthy, unkempt little bourgeois,”[2] de Lamennais was, however, one of the most persuasive and enthusiastic partisans of the “New Things.” A collectivist visionary genius, he had become widely known for his violent literary attacks on those whom he regarded with little reason or justification as less orthodox than himself.[3]
Even though de Lamennais eventually left the Church, his work may with justice be regarded as laying the foundations of today’s climate of dissent within Catholicism. De Lamennais provided many with the rationalizations they sought to shift away from the traditional mission of the Catholic Church to an exclusive focus on the social gospel.[4]

The First Modernist
In the early nineteenth century, the “tormented, headstrong Breton priest”[1] Hugues-Félicité Robert de Lamennais changed fundamental…